Federal legislation setting rules for the National Flood Insurance Program that could bring skyrocketing premiums for Middletown and other Jersey Shore residents must be repealed or reformed, a resolution passed by Township Committee members declares.
Passed in 2012, the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act is a “one-size-fits-all” law that doesn’t take into account the local flood control measures in Middletown that helped save homes from Superstorm Sandy’s fury, according to the committee resolution passed Monday night.
“We’re not going to let this lie with the resolution now,” said Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger after the unanimous vote.
The premium increases—which officials said could be up to 100 percent if houses aren’t raised—ultimately could drive locals from their homes, officials and property owners have said.
The rate hikes apply to homes that were not affected by Sandy and do not qualify for grants and other assistance. In some cases, if these unaffected homes aren’t raised, “extraordinary” flood insurance rate hikes will follow, according to the resolution.
Committeeman Anthony Fiore said last month that he can understand a rate increase for properties that sustained flood damage. But premiums also are poised to increase for 1,400 North Middletown homeowners who saw no rising water during Sandy or Hurricane Irene because of local flood control systems.
Despite their apparent effectiveness, those control systems were decertified by FEMA in 2009, leading to a higher flood map elevation for North Middletown homes.
Under Biggert-Waters, annual flood insurance premiums could increase to $31,000 a year if homes aren’t raised to comply with updated flood maps.
Raising a home could cost tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum. Homeowners in flood zones who have mortgages are normally required to carry flood insurance.
“These extraordinary rate hikes will undoubtedly force numerous Middletown residents from their homes while having an incredibly detrimental impact on real estate values along the entire Jersey Shore,” the resolution reads.
Middletown officials want the act reformed or repealed and call on the United States Congress to “act expeditiously before unconscionable flood insurance rate hikes destroy well-established communities in Middletown and along the Jersey Shore,” the resolution reads.
“I ask the clerk to make sure that this resolution gets out to every coastal municipality, not only in Monmouth County but everywhere we can,” Fiore said Monday.
North Middletown homeowner Greg Hutchinson, one of many who would be affected by the insurance increases, spoke before the committee last week and again Monday pledged to keep pressure on township and other elected officials.
“We’re going to be on top of you as you’re going to be on top of [state and federal lawmakers],” he said. “We have to keep the ball rolling on every level.”
Hutchinson said that he and other residents are heading up a task force which currently is working on a strategic plan to combat the hikes. He also said that residents with various professional experience are willing to give their time to help in any way possible.
A certified copy of the resolution will be sent to U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, U.S. House Reps. Frank Pallone and Chris Smith, Gov. Chris Christie and other state officials.